Five Things Not To Do When Packing for a Trip

Packing for a holiday can be exciting as you imagine the wonderful times you’ll be sharing with those soon-to-be-jet-setting outfits, but it can also border on traumatic if you get yourself into a packing pickle.

To help ease your packing pain, I’ve come up with a handy guide of five things not to do when you’re packing for your next adventure.

Pack at the Last Minute

I have a friend who we like to call Batman, who can pack for an international trip, shower and get dressed all in under 40 minutes. I love him and he never leaves anything behind, but this is not what normal people should do.

In the days, weeks, or even months leading up to your trip do your Future Self a favour and make a list.

There are list apps that allow you to add things as you think of them, and then tick them off as they’ve been packed. And you can then save and reuse them for future trips. I have a separate list for my carry on items which I check before every trip.

But it really doesn’t matter if you use your smart phone or a scrap of paper, making a list will not only make packing day so much easier, it will stop those ‘I really must remember to pack my phone charger’ thoughts doing laps in your head.

Lists make packing day much easier Go Free Range

Remembering everything on your list is one thing, but when it’s time to put said items into a suitcase, life will be better if you get a bit organised.

If you haven’t discovered packing cells already, the time has come. These clever packing solutions allow you to put different kinds of clothes into different cells, so you’re not digging around in your suitcase, flinging clothes on the floor as you try to figure out where on earth your favourite top has disappeared to.

I love taking the cells out of my bag, putting them into a hotel drawer and then just opening the top. That way everything is there, neatly looking up at you, and with one zip the whole drawer is ready to hop back in your case and move onto the next location. Winning.

If you’re going on a big trip and are looking at taking more than your usual amount of luggage you may also like to check out my story all about the pros and cons of taking two medium checked in bags compared to one large one, complete with some excess baggage maths.

Roll All of Your Clothes

Yes, rolling will save space by expelling the excess air, which means you can fit more into your case.

But there are times when you should roll with it, and times when you should go old school and just neatly fold. A good rule of thumb is to roll those things that don’t usually need ironing, and fold those that do.

If you put those neatly folded items into your trusty packing cell they won’t get all crumpled as you search through your case.

Don’t forget smaller rolled up items can go into your shoes to save space and help them keep their shape. Shoes that are then placed in a nice shoe bag or even a plastic bag to keep everything nice and clean.

Carry On Breaking the Rules

Most of us have been well trained when it comes to the amount of liquids, aerosols and gels we can take on a flight, but there’s a long list of other things that you shouldn’t carry on with you.

Weapons and explosives are rather obvious, but some sporting goods and kitchen utensils are also on the naughty list. If in doubt, head to the Australian Government’s TravelSECURE website and also check the rules for the airport you’ll be flying home from.

Keep in mind some drugs that can be easily purchased in any chemist in Australia are banned in some other countries, so make sure you check the prohibited list before you fly to, or through, an airport.

Things you definitely do want in your carry on include your medications, valuables like your laptop and jewellery, and some toiletries to make the flight more pleasant. It’s amazing how a quick beauty wipe followed by lashings of moisturiser can make a difference in the sky.

An outfit change is also a good idea, just in case your checked baggage takes a little side trip of its own. Most missing bags turn up within a couple of days (last year the average was 1.6 days to be exact) so a fresh set of clothes would help tide you over.

I’m also a huge fan of taking pyjamas on a long haul flight. If you’re lucky enough to be in the pointy end of the plane you may receive some nice designer ones, but even when I’m in economy I take my own. Not only are they super comfortable to wear, I don’t look like I’ve slept in my clothes when I arrive at the other end.

Virgin Australia Sleep Suit by Juli Grbac

Forget To Check Your Passport

Okay, sure you can do this one if you’re travelling domestically, but if you’re heading for an international terminal you don’t just need to check that you have your passport, you need to make sure it will get you into your destination.

Your passport may be valid, but how long does it have left? Some countries require people to have a minimum of six months left on their passport before they’ll let them in.

How many stamps you have could also be an issue, as some places insist on one or two blank pages in a passport before they’ll add their own immigration stamp.

I now have “Please Leave Blank” post-it pleas on a couple pages in my passport after picking up that tip from a particularly well-travelled friend.

Of course a quick online check on whether you need a visa for the country you’re heading to is also a very good idea. Much better to find that one out well before you get to the airport.

And if you’re about to head off on a trip and have insurance through your bank or credit card, it’s a good idea to read this piece about why your credit card’s travel insurance may not be enough before you jet off.

Don't get the passport blues

So there we have it. Five things to avoid when you’re packing for your next adventure. And for the crazy cat people out there we have a bonus round…

Pack with Cats

They pretend they’re being helpful, but they’re just not. Let’s be honest they’re really just psyching you out and working the travelling pet owner guilt so they get more fishy treats. But that’s a story for another day.

Now if I could only get enthusiastic about the whole unpacking thing when I get home. Yeah, I can’t see that one happening in a hurry, but maybe one day….

This post has been created as part of Virgin Australia’s Top Travel Tips competition for a Problogger Event

While we’re talking travel tips, here’s another one you may want to check out:

It’s all about left luggage in hotels and a common travel insurance mistake. 

Travel Insurance Tip You Need to Know

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips through my blog and on my weekly travel segment on Sydney Radio 2UE. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

Leave a Comment

  1. Haha we have the cat problem here too. Great tips.

  2. Great packing tips here of what not to do! and i love your lips luggage 🙂 You certainly can’t miss that in the sea of bags in a carousel!

    • Thanks! And how cute is that case? Sadly the handle snapped on our last flight together so she’s about to be turned into a little storage number for the house rather than my favourite carry on. But she got to see a few special places on our travels together 🙂

  3. Great tips Amanda – and lols on number 5!! I have no cats, but do have a doting schnoodle and my do-not when travel is getting the suitcase out too soon. They knoooow! Congrats on making the top 10 finalists for the comp – good luck for the announcement and hope to meet you at Problogger! x

    • Thanks! And that tip about not getting the case out too soon did make me laugh. Miss Kitty does start to give me a look when she sees that suitcase. Though the person who takes care of her while I’m away gives her loads of extra portions whereas I’m trying to help her on a diet, so maybe she likes it when I go now? Hmmm….

  4. Very interesting post! I never pack my stuff at the last moment. I like 2-3 days earlier to do a packing checklist so I know exactly what to pack the night before traveling.

    • I’m so with you! Every time that friend starts to pack with less than an hour before heading to an airport it freaks me out! But somehow he does it. Definitely not for this gal though 🙂

  5. Krista says:

    I dont understand the thing about the passports, can you explain about that more please?

    • Hi Krista,

      Of course, let me try that one again with a little more detail.

      Some countries will refuse to let you in unless you have a certain number of blank pages on your passport. Sometimes it’s two, sometimes four pages that they insist on.

      If you have a passport with only one or two blank pages it’s worth checking the requirements of the country you’re travelling to just in case it’s one of those places to save yourself being turned around at the airport and sent home.

      If you’re travelling to a few countries and they need visas, you’d want to also take that into consideration. Sometimes whole pages will be taken up by a visa using some of your valuable last pages.

      Keep in mind some airlines also won’t let you board the plane if they know the next stop is going to require more blank pages than you have, even if it’s a connecting flight. So you may want to check with the airline too.

      That’s why I have the post its in there asking them to please leave some of my blank pages blank so immigration officials don’t just open it up to the first blank page they see and stamp in there.

      Hope that helps.

  6. I’m a woman, and I always pack at the very last second, too. I went to Ireland and had to leave the house at 8:00am. I was cutting my brother’s hair at 3:00 AM and I think I packed after that. Only had an hour of sleep. :/ Didn’t forget anything, though! (Really, I just had to pick out clothes and I don’t like choosing those ahead of time.) It’s gotten to be a pretty bad habit of mine, though, lol. I used to make lists and now they are all just in my head.
    I do have a 2 part system when packing. The last night before I leave, I add all my nighttime routine to my bag. Then, the last morning I add my morning routine to the bag. That way, I never forget anything.

    • Oh wow… I would have made a mess of my brother’s hair if I knew I hadn’t packed and had to fly in a few hours! Well, that and because I’ve never cut hair in my life.

      But I do like that two part system… it makes total sense to add in everything you use the night before bed and in the morning. Much more sense having that routine than my ‘don’t forget makeup’ sticky note on my bag when everything else is packed and ready to go 🙂

  7. Ralph Buettner says:

    Hi Amanda. I just started following you on Pinterest. My wife and I are planning a driving trip to some of the national parks in Utah and Arizona this coming October. We went to Germany in 2011 and had a wonderful time. Met a cousin in Germany that we had never met before. My wife starts packing weeks ahead of time and I usually wait until the day before. But I do start a packing list weeks or months before. I leave it in my suitcase when I get home and unpack so I know where to find it when the next trip gets near. I will start keeping my list on my phone or iPad; easier to update that way. I have started thinking today about making my list for our upcoming trip. Packing for a car/driving trip is different than flying. Thanks for your tips and I will look forward to reading more of your tips in the days ahead.

    • Hi Ralph, thanks so much for connecting and lovely to e-meet another pinterest and travel lover. Your travels sound great. I would *love* to do Utah, it looks amazing, and while I have been to Arizona before that’s another one I’d love to go back to. I’m actually planning time in Germany this year at the moment and glad you had fun over there. I’m actually planning to be away for six months on my next trip so you can imagine how important my Don’t Forget packing list is for that one!

Leave a Comment